Bernardo Garcia is Phoenix’s Attorney of the Month, July 2017


Providing Justice for Phoenix-area Mentally Ill.

Bernardo’s Criminal Defense practice is unique in the Phoenix area. He is featured as the Attorney of the Month. Read his story online on Attorney At Law Magazine  or download the PDF.

Attorney at Law Magazine, phoenix mental health defense attorney
attorney at law magazine's attorney of the month

Posted in Arizona | Tagged , , , |

New AZ Supreme Court Ruling On Insanity Defense


A new Supreme Court Ruling was decided earlier this month that says a defendant pleading insanity and voluntarily undergoing a mental health exam must provide the results to the prosecutor of the case.

The ruling also states that the defendant with a mental health defense must include a statement about their impending charges. The prosecutors are not allowed to use this statement to prove guilt but they are able to use this statement to rebut the defendant’s insanity claims.

The new ruling calls into question whether requiring disclosure violates the defendants’ Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. But the ruling released by the Supreme Court states that no rights are violated by this decision. This is because defendants claiming insanity have waived their protection against self-incrimination.

The ruling was issued in the case of Josh Rasmussen awaiting trial in a 2013 Glendale homicide case. The decision was unanimous.

What Does This Mean For Others With A Mental Health Defense?

Claiming to be insane during the time that you committed a crime is not always an easy thing to do. In claiming that, you are saying that you did, in fact, commit the crime. But you are also trying to prove that you were not in your right mind when the crime happened and that you’d like to get treatment rather than be incarcerated. It’s not a get out of jail free card and it’s not taken lightly.

Now, with this new ruling, you must give all records from you mental health exams to the prosecutor of your trial. If you are mentally ill, the records will show that. If you have a good mental health defense attorney on your side this will only help your case. Contact us if you need an expert on your side.

Posted in Arizona, Mental Health, Mental Health Defenses | Tagged , , , , , |

La Paz County Votes To Lower Mental Illness In Jails


A unanimous vote taken by the La Paz County Board of Supervisors early this month will commit them to a national incentive aimed at reducing the number of mentally ill people in county jails.

Stepping Up Initiative

La Paz CountyStepping Up is a national initiative dedicated to reducing the number of people with mental illness in jails. Each year in the United States, there are an estimated 2 million people with mental illness admitted to county jails. Jails now house more mentally ill people than psychiatric hospitals.

This creates a number of problems that Stepping Up is dedicated to fixing. The majority of mentally ill people winding up in jail suffer from drug and alcohol problems, and they are more likely to return to jail upon release than those without these illnesses.

Jails spend two to three times more money on people with mental illnesses, costing taxpayers even more. Although resources are limited and a great amount of change is required to improve the jail system, Stepping Up is the first step to improvement.

The county’s decision makes La Paz the 15th Arizona County to join the Stepping Up initiative and makes Arizona the first state to have all of its counties join.

A board member of David’s Hope, a mental health advocacy organization that leads the Arizona Mental Health Criminal Justice Coalition, Steven Harvey said that this is only the first step. A lot of follow-up work has to be put in by everyone involved. The county’s next steps are to begin working with their mental health system on ways to treat people with mental health illnesses that have committed a small crime. The goal is to get them into a treatment program where they can recover, rather than sticking them in jail where they’ll just get worse.

Mental health care centers are already ready to work with the county’s jails in treating adults with mental illness.

Posted in Mental Health | Tagged , , , , , , |

Tucson Police Will Be Trained in Handling Mental Health


Police officers in Tucson have begun to receive training to better handle mental health crisis calls. Chief Chris Magnus said that 500 officers are expected to complete training by the end of the year. This puts the Tucson Police Department ahead of the rest of the country in mental health training.

Mental Health Support Team

Tucson Police DepartmentThe police department’s Mental Health Support Team are the personnel responsible for going out to de-escalate a crisis in a serious situation, but they are not typically the first responders. Tucson PD aims to have all their patrol officers trained on how to handle mental health crises because they are typically the first to respond.

In the past two years, officers transported 4,060 people in crisis for mental health evaluations and treatment.

Criminal justice workers, law enforcement officers, and behavioral-health experts in Pima County all came together to discuss treatment rather than jail terms for those suffering from mental health and substance abuse at a Decriminalizing Mental Illness conference.

“Two million people a year with mental health and substance abuse issues are incarcerated nationwide. Jails have become de-facto mental health institutions,” said Magnus

The officers will take an eight-hour course that covers situations including how to deal with someone having suicidal thoughts, depression, panic attacks, traumatic events affecting adults or children, acute psychosis, aggressive behavior, and those undergoing substance abuse and need emergency medical treatment. Magnus said there is already a waitlist for officers who want to complete the training.

The people the TPD offers help to are not just people on the street, they are families and friends at every socioeconomic level.

Magnus plans on having every officer on every level of the department trained on mental health crisis, including detectives, dispatchers, supervisors and remaining staff members

Posted in Mental Health, Mental Health Defenses | Tagged , , , , , , , , |

Mentally Ill More Likely To Spend Time In Prison


In today’s prison system, the mentally ill are more likely to spend their time in jail than getting help for their condition. And the prison system has failed its inmates with mental disorders more times than not.

Mental Illness in U.S. Prisons

jail cellAbout 400,000 inmates in the U.S. prison system are estimated to be mentally ill. Many times, the person’s disorder is responsible for landing them in prison, and then they continue to go without treatment. This cycle can continue on repeating itself for years without the proper treatment.

People who are mentally ill are ten times more likely to be incarcerated than hospitalized. During a panel discussion hosted by the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., it was stated that the mentally ill inmate population is equivalent to the entire population of Oakland, California. It was also stated that an average of 5,000 people with serious mental illness are booked into jails per day.

These people end up getting arrested for crimes ranging from small to large, such as trespassing or violent felonies. The most common mental illnesses in U.S. prisons are schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, which will only get worse without the proper care.

Post-jail treatment

When mentally ill inmates are released from jail they are at a higher risk of being convicted of another criminal offense. Housing and employment are the biggest challenges for the mentally ill when they are released from prison. What these people really need is a place to learn how to cope with their illness so they can survive in the real world.

The best solution is to get them to work with a psychiatrist after being released from jail who can help them get a job and find a place to live. Programs like that are what’s lacking from the system.


Posted in Mental Health | Tagged , , , |

Life In Prison For The Mentally Ill


For a long time now, prisons have become dumping grounds for the mentally ill. With inadequately trained staff and far too little resources, prison is not an appropriate place to throw people with psychiatric issues. Most inmates end up suffering from isolation, deprivation and violence while their mental health goes untreated.

Not only does prison stunt a person’s treatment but it often times makes their mental illness worse. Being ignored and forced into solitary confinement is the worst thing for people with disorders like depression disorders and schizophrenia.

prison cells

Because prison guards have little training on how to handle people with mental illnesses, they often times result in violence to get inmates under control. A 55-year-old inmate with schizophrenia who charged a guard while accompanying him to the shower was tased twice causing him to fall to the floor. The guard then continued to try to reprimand the man by straddling him and pounding his face with his fist. The prisoner was taken to the hospital where they found he had 8 facial fracture that were similar to what one might get in a high-speed car crash.

Another inmate was beaten so badly after threatening a guard with a food tray that he couldn’t walk after. Six hours later he was taken to the ER where they found he had a shattered hip socket and a dislocated hip. Once returned to the prison he rarely received medical treatment for his hip because he was being disciplined or was deemed too dangerous because of his mental condition.

Many people who enter prison with a mental illness leave with a condition that is even worse. They also tend to end up going back to jail and the cycle never ends.

Posted in Mental Health | Tagged , , |

Seeking Treatment Instead of Jail Time


Mental health is always difficult to deal with, but can become even more complicated when it leads the the committing of a crime. Whether someone is dealing with addiction or a mental health issue like bipolar disorder, jail time is usually not an efficient solution for the defendant or for society. Seeking treatment instead of jail time is an alternative that can have a very effective outcome.

Prison and Mental Health Don’t Mix

Throwing someone in jail doesn’t make their mental health issues go away. In most cases, it just makes them worse. Their underlying issues will still be there when they are released, making it even more difficult to re-assimilate into society. This will usually then lead to the person ending up back in jail.

Why Is Treatment So Important?

Mental health treatment offers a long term solution to improving a person’s mental health. This in turn will keep those affected with mental health conditions out of prison, and lower over all prison costs for tax payers. Seeking mental treatment isn’t always easy to do but it is a beneficial life decision.

Choosing Treatment Instead of Punishment

Alternative sentencing is usually based on the belief that rehab will be a more effective solution than prison. This gives people who have been caught up in crime because of drugs or other mental health problems the chance to better themselves. Treatment programs allow people to recover from addiction and to get the mental health treatment they need to get their lives back on track.

Prison isn’t the best solution for people wanting to recover and better themselves. It’s easy to get caught up in more drugs while in prison.

Who usually qualifies for treatment instead of jail time?

  • People who have committed a nonviolent crime may have the opportunity to enter into a treatment program.
  • People who don’t have a past criminal record may get the option to choose treatment over jail time.
  • If the person can demonstrate that they can benefit from rehab they may be given the option to do so.
  • A mental evaluation with a mental health care professional may qualify someone for treatment instead of jail time.
  • If the person can show they are dedicated to improving their self and living a crime free life they may be able to get treatment instead of jail time.


Posted in Mental Health, Mental Health Defenses | Tagged , , , |

What Are Sentences for Mentally Ill Offenders?


Many Americans with mental illness end up in jails and prisons each year. They also tend to spend longer terms in prison and end up back in prison costing local jurisdictions more money. They are typically jailed for nonviolent reasons and end up lacking the treatment they need. So what are other options for the mentally ill offenders that doesn’t involve incarceration?

Mental Health Sentences in Arizona

The best way to treat a mentally ill offender is to sentence them to some kind  of treatment program where they can get the help they need. Community corrections is an alternative to prison for nonviolent offenders. The mentally ill can benefit from these programs because they provide several treatments aimed at helping mental disorders and substance addiction. Below are several treatment options mentally ill offenders can be sentenced to:

  • Assessment and evaluation services: individual assessments and evaluations of substance abuse and mental disorders that can be requested by individuals, families, schools and the Criminal Justice System.
  • Mental health services: treatment programs specifically designed to treat mental illnesses in kids and adults short term and long term.
  • Sober living and recovery support: this is a safe transition space before fully returning to independent living or an alternative to residential treatment depending on the situation.
  • Mother and child residential services: professional services for pregnant women and women with young children in a residential setting.
  • Adult outpatient services: Adults have the option of receiving outpatient services that provide a comprehensive array of substance abuse and mental health programs. All programs use evidence based practices that are safe, supportive and accredited.
  • Adult residential services: residential treatments are catered to each individual and create solutions to meet each individual’s needs. Stay lengths are flexible and programs meet any treatment needs.
  • Adult detoxification and stabilization: medical and social detoxification and stabilization services that helps individuals detox safely and then connects them to the next level of care.


Posted in Mental Health | Tagged , , , |

How is Mental Fitness Tested?


When using a mental health defense for y our case, you will have to be tested to determine whether you are mentally ill. A mental health evaluation is conducted by physicians to get an overall picture of how your mental health is. They’ll test how well you’re able to think, reason and remember by asking you questions and examining you either vocally or in writing. They will assess how you look, your mood, behavior, thinking, reasoning, memory and overall ability to express yourself. In some cases, they will also conduct a blood or urine test.

mental health patient counselingWhy are mental health evaluations done?

Mental health evaluations can help your physician find out if you have a mental health disorder such as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease, or anorexia nervosa.

People are usually referred to get a mental health exam because they are having problems at home, work or school. They may also have a court ordered petition for an evaluation after being arrested for a crime that may relate to their mental health.

What is the result of a mental health evaluation?

Mental health evaluations help physicians determine if a person needs treatment for a mental health disorder and if they a danger to themselves or others. If the person does in fact need treatment, the physician can recommend one, including medication.

What happens in mental health evaluations ordered by the court?

After being evaluated, if there is enough evidence to prove that the person needs help with their mental health, the court may order them to treatment. The treatment may be completed at a hospital or at a community based clinic, or both.

The maximum period for court ordered treatment is 365 days. The person ordered to treatment may request a judicial review after 60 days if they believe their circumstances have improved. During the review the court may changes the order for treatment, lessening the amount of days that must be completed or terminating the treatment completely.

Posted in Mental Health, Mental Health Defenses, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , |

Can Charges Be Dropped Due to Mental Illness


The Definition of Legal Insanity

To plea mentally ill after being charged of a crime, the mental illness must be so severe that society should not deem the offender morally responsible for their behavior. This is because most people who commit a crime results in some distortion of the mental process. While the courts continue to distinguish between those who cannot be held morally responsible due to mental illness and those who deserve time in prison, there are two tests used by the court to define mental illness.

· The M’Naghten Test determines whether the defendant knew right from wrong when committing the crime.
· The Brawner Test is used in some states in place of the M’Naghten test and it deems the defendant insane if, by mental defect, they lack the capacity to understand the criminality of their actions.
· The Irresistible Impulse Test determines if defendants are insane if their mental disorder prevents them from resisting the compulsion of an illegal act.

Trial Procedures for Pleading Mentally Ill

Defendants who choose to plead mental illness must inform the court before the trial begins. The court will then assign a psychiatrist to the case who will examine the defendant and then testify in the trial. Defendants must convince the judge or jury that they were insane at the time they committed the criminal act using clear evidence. The psychiatrist will also provide a mental diagnosis concerning the defendant’s mental illness.

Being Found Not Guilty Due to Mental Illness

If the defendant is found not guilty due to mental insanity they are typically sentenced to being confined to a mental health facility until they are able to convince the judge that they are no longer mentally insane. These sentences are usually longer periods of time than the defendant would have spent in prison.

Posted in Mental Health, Mental Health Defenses | Tagged , , |